These jumbo pasta shells are stuffed with vegan sausage crumbles, garlic, fresh spinach, a simple tofu sage ricotta and tender roasted butternut squash. It all gets baked in a creamy roasted butternut squash sauce. So wholesome, delicious and satisfying! If you’re lucky enough to have leftovers, this vegan main is even better then next day!
Thank you to Stahlbush Island Farms for sponsoring this post. As always, all opinions are my own.
The inspiration behind this dish? Fresh sage. I recently discovered how totally amazing this herb is fresh, as I’d only ever used it dried. I’d heard it’s really nice fried, so I got curious and had to try it out for myself. If you haven’t fried fresh sage before, you’re in for a treat! It takes literally only a few seconds in a bit of hot oil and it’s done. It becomes crispy and delicate, its green hue deepens and it makes the prettiest garnish! Hence this dish, which became a vehicle for said garnish. If you want to try it out, this is the recipe I used.
The other star of this vegan pasta bake is a little more obvious: the butternut squash of course! I used Stahlbush Island Farms frozen chopped butternut squash. It’s such a time saver!
How to Make Vegan Butternut Squash & Sage Ricotta Stuffed Shells
Step 1: Par-boil the pasta shells.
I recommend cooking the noodles for half the time the package instructions say to. We don’t want the noodles to be fully cooked for the stuffed vegan shells – they will continue to cook in the oven and will absorb moisture from the sauce. If cooked just until they’ve softened, they’re easy to fill and will be al dente once baked.
Step 2: Roast the Butternut Squash
Roasting really brings out the best in squash. A bit of caramelization and crispiness happens, and flavors deepen. To help this happen, coat all sides of the cubed squash with the oil, and give each piece some space. Spread it out in a single layer and roast only once the oven is preheated. Toss once during roasting.
Step 3: Make the Butternut Squash Cream Sauce
This vegan cream sauce is mild so the flavors from the filling really shine. The roux based sauce is smooth and creamy with subtle sweet tones from the squash, some acidity from white balsamic vinegar, and umami from some miso paste.
I recommend using a white balsamic vinegar if you have it. It has a really nice flavor without staining everything brown like regular balsamic will. If you don’t have any white balsamic, rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or lemon juice are all good choices. This is true for the sauce as well as the ricotta.
Step 4: Make the Vegan Ricotta & Stuff the Pasta Shells
When making the ricotta, break up the tofu and other ingredients in the food processor but go slow, and pulse only until it looks blended but pieces of each ingredient are still recognizable. We’re looking to have some texture left, not a paste.
I used apple sage sausages in these vegan stuffed shells, but have tested this recipe with mild Italian which were delicious in this baked stuffed pasta! When choosing the sausage for this vegan pasta casserole, keep in mind the flavor profile. For example, a Mexican flavor might compete too much here.
When mixing the vegan ricotta filling, go gently so you don’t mash up the squash. You’ll be able to pick and choose what goes in each shell as you fill them, so better to under mix than over mix.
Step 5: Bake the Stuffed Vegan Shells in the Butternut Cream Sauce
During testing, I added half the sauce to the casserole dish, added the stuffed shells and then topped with the rest of the sauce. While it tasted good, I found that the sauce reduced too much and became a bit cracked on top. This isn’t a big deal, but adding all the sauce to the bottom at once has a few benefits: 1) it’s easier, 2) it looks prettier, and 3) the sauce remains silky and not dry. Just be sure to keep covered in foil during baking.
More Vegan Pasta Recipes You’ll Love:
If you make these Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash, Sausage and Sage Ricotta Stuffed Shells, please give them a rating in the recipe card and leave a comment below! Follow along on Instagram where you can tag me in your creations using my recipes! You can also follow me on Pinterest for vegan recipe inspiration and on Facebook. Thank you for reading!
Vegan Butternut Squash Sage Stuffed Shells
- 25-30 jumbo pasta shells (most of a 250g pkg)
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- 2 lbs 3 bags Stahlbush Island Farms chopped butternut squash
- 7 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
- 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- 2 tbsp light miso (eg. shiro)
- salt & ground black pepper, to taste
For the Filling:
- 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 medium brown onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 14 oz firm tofu, drained
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar (can sub with rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar or lemon juice)
- 1 tsp salt
- 8 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
- 2 vegan sausages, crumbled or diced apple sage or mild Italian are best here
- 4 cups, packed baby spinach leaves, or 4 oz frozen, thawed, chopped, and water squeezed out
- coarse salt and fresh pepper, to serve
- fried sage for garnish, if desired
For the Noodles:
- Boil the noodles in water for half the time their packaging instructs you to. It's best to under-cook them so they don't fall apart while you're trying to fill them, and don't become mushy when they are baked. Drain, rinse with cold water, and toss with a bit of oil so they don't stick together. Keep covered so they don't dry out.
For the Squash and the Sauce:
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss the cubed butternut squash on the baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of oil. Ensure all of the pieces are evenly coated, and spread in a single layer on the pan for even roasting. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender and there's some browning, tossing once. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
- In a medium-sized pot, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add in the flour, and whisk constantly for 2-3 minutes. This mixture (white roux) should bubble and smell fragrant. Slowly whisk in the plant-based milk, and bring up to a simmer. Continue whisking and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
- Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor. Add in the nutmeg, miso, white balsamic vinegar, miso paste and 1 cup of the roasted butternut squash. Blend until completely smooth, taking care that the lid is secure so you don't get burned.
For the Ricotta:
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the diced onion and cook until softened and starting to become translucent, about 2 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the onion, garlic, tofu, vinegar, salt, and sage. Pulse until combined, but there’s still some texture (it shouldn’t be a paste.)
- Over medium heat in the same skillet you fried your onions in, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil. Add the crumbled sausages and cook for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add in the spinach, stirring to encourage it to wilt. Remove from heat. Add in the tofu ricotta and remaining roasted butternut squash, stirring gently so as not to mash the squash.
- Spread the sauce in a 9 x 13" casserole dish (or 12" round skillet as pictured). Fill each shell generously with the sausage ricotta mixture, and fit them snugly into the pan over the sauce. Cover with foil and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly throughout. Enjoy!
The Nutrition Information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the Nutrition Information for any recipe on this site cannot be guaranteed.
This recipe was first published on Crumbs & Caramel January 25, 2019. The post was updated on September 30, 2020 with improved educational value and fresh images.
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